Republican Congressman-elect George Santos has received criticism from officials on both sides of the aisle, including Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman, for lying about his personal and professional background along with a challenge from the Democrat he beat in the race for Congress in November.
Blakeman and newly-elected U.S. Rep. Nick LaLota (R-Bay Shore) called for the House Ethics Committee to launch an investigation into Santos’ past riddled with discrepancies as outlined by the New York Times last week. Blakeman told Newsday that the congressman-elect’s record has now come into question.
“I think that he’s entitled to a hearing with the [House] Ethics Committee, and that they should do a thorough investigation to see if he violated any laws or any ethics rules,” Blakeman told Newsday. “I think that we have to let the process unfold, which I think will happen fairly swiftly.”
“New Yorkers deserve the truth and House Republicans deserve an opportunity to govern without this distraction,” LaLota, who will represent the state’s 1st Congressional District, told Newsday.
Droves of elected officials have criticized Santos for providing false educational and professional experience for his biography. Santos admitted to the New York Post that he “embellished” parts of his resume but still intended to serve in Congress.
“This [controversy] will not deter me from having good legislative success,” Santos told the Post Monday. “I will be effective. I will be good.”
Nassau County Republican Committee Chairman Joe Cairo said in a statement: “While I have indicated that the congressman-elect deserves a reasonable amount of time to respond to the media, voters deserve a sincere accounting from Mr. Santos.” Cairo has since said that Santos should still serve in the House.
“Congressman-elect Santos has broken the public trust by making serious misstatements regarding his background, experience and education, among other issues,” the Republican leader said. “He has a lot of work to do to regain the trust of voters and everyone who he represents in Congress.”
Robert Zimmerman, who lost to Santos in the 3rd Congressional District election, bashed the congressman-elect for fabricating his resume and urged him to step down from his seat and run against him again in a special election.
“George, if that’s even your real name, if you’re so convinced that #NY3 voters still trust you – resign & run against me again in a special election,” Zimmerman tweeted from his personal account on Tuesday. “Face the voters with your real past & answer questions about your criminal history. Let the voters decide.”
Nassau County Legislator Josh Lafazan (D-Woodbury) who lost in the 3rd District’s Democratic primary earlier to Zimmerman this year, has also called on Santos to resign.
“George Santos has now publicly admitted to what we have all known for a week: he is a liar and a fraud,” Lafazan said in a statement. “Any one of George Santos’ lies would be grounds for dismissal for any ordinary citizen in a job. And when taken together, George Santos’ behavior has disgraced the 3rd Congressional District and the House of Representatives in which he wants to serve.”
Lafazan, last week, submitted an official letter asking the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York to launch an investigation into federal crimes he claims Santos has committed, including voter fraud and fraudulent campaign finance filings.
The legislator has also introduced the “Campaign Honest Bill” that makes it a misdemeanor for a candidate to lie about registered addresses, employment history, education and income sources.
North Hempstead Supervisor Jennifer DeSena, who endorsed Santos, expressed her disappointment in his falsehoods but did not retract her endorsement of the Republican.
“I have dedicated my career in government service to bringing honesty, transparency, and accountability to the public,” DeSena said in a statement. “Elected officials must hold themselves to the highest standards of conduct, and that is why I believe it was critically important for Congressman-elect George Santos to take the first step in admitting his false statements and embellishments that have caused voters hurt and disappointment.”
Anthony D’Esposito, a Republican who won the state’s 4th Congressional District election last month, also condemned Santos for lying about his background.
“While Santos has taken a required first step by ‘coming clean’ with respect to his education, work experience, and other issues, he must continue to pursue a path of honesty,” D’Esposito said in a statement.
State Attorney General Letitia James said her office would review the allegations made against Santos by The Times last week.
Santos was accused by The Times of lying about earning degrees from NYU and Baruch College as well as working for Citigroup and Goldman Sachs. Neither college could confirm his enrollment to multiple media outlets while neither company could confirm his employment.
Santos, in a previously published biography on his campaign website, described himself as “an associate asset manager” in Citigroup, but a company spokesman told The Times that they could not confirm his employment. The spokesman also said Citi sold off its asset management operations in 2005 and was unfamiliar with Santos’ job title listed on his biography.
A Goldman Sachs spokesman also failed to confirm Santos’ employment, while the Republican did not list a specific time frame for his time at the companies in biographies.
The congressman-elect told the Post that he never graduated from “any institution of higher learning” and that he “never worked directly” for either organization but that a company called Link Bridge, where he served as vice president, worked with both companies.
Santos’ campaign website says the Republican’s grandparents “fled Jewish persecution in Ukraine, settled in Belgium and again fled persecution during WWII.”
A review of genealogy reports done by The Forward, an independent, Jewish publication, showed that his grandparents, Paulo Horta Devolder and Rosalina Caruso Horta Devolder, were both born in Brazil prior to 1930 when the Nazi Party secured more than 100 seats in Germany’s parliament.
The report claims Santos’ mother, Fatima Aziza Caruso Horta Devolder was born to Paulo and Rosalina in a suburb of Rio de Janeiro. His mother’s Facebook page does not contain references to Judaism but several pages she “liked” were for various Catholic groups.
Other posts she has shared on her Facebook page, which include pictures of her and the congressman-elect, include depictions of Jesus and quotes from the Bible. His mother died in 2016, according to an online obituary.
Santos, in a 2020 interview, said his family converted to Christianity while living in Brazil. Santos told the Post that he “never claimed to be Jewish” but that his “maternal family had a Jewish background,” which he meant as being “Jew-ish.”
The openly gay congressman-elect who previously said he “never had an issue” with his sexual identity during the past 10 years, divorced a woman weeks before he launched his first congressional campaign in 2019, according to the Daily Beast.
The report shows that Santos allegedly was married to Uadla Santos and divorced in September 2019.
Santos said he was married to a woman from 2012-2017 but told the Post he is now married and “very much gay,” saying the previous relationship “got a little toxic.”
The congressman-elect also admitted to being in debt and fined more than $12,000 in May 2017 after a Queens landlord claimed he was owed more than $10,000 in rent over a five-month period. Santos said he did not own 13 different properties despite previously calling out alleged tenants of said properties for “taking advantage” of rental assistance offered during the coronavirus pandemic, claiming he and his family had not been paid rent in nearly a year.
The Times also reported that in 2008, when Santos was 19, he stole the checkbook of a man his mother was caring for, according to Brazilian court records.
Police and court records show that Santos used the checkbook to make fraudulent purchases, including a pair of shoes. Two years later, Santos confessed to the crime and was later charged.
The court and local prosecutor in Brazil confirmed the case remains unresolved, The Times reported. Santos did not respond to an official summons and a court representative could not find him at his given address, records show.
Santos disputed those claims, telling the Post, “I am not a criminal here- not here or in Brazil or any jurisdiction in the world.”
The Times also questioned the tax-exempt classification of Santos’ charity, Friends of Pets United.
The Internal Revenue Service was unable to provide The Times with any information showing that the charity had tax-exempt status. The charity’s 2017 fund-raising event had a $50 entry charge, according to the newspaper, but a representative from the event’s beneficiary said it did not receive any of the proceeds.
The Times’ analysis of property records databases in Nassau County and New York City did not show any deeds associated with anyone in the Santos family or their company, the Devolder Organization.
Santos described the company, according to The Times, as one that managed $80 million in assets. The Republican also described it as a capital introduction consulting company on his congressional financial disclosure forms.
Several election law experts told The Times that omitting the company’s clients on the financial reports “could be problematic” if the clients exist.
Santos loaned his campaign more than $700,000 during this year’s election cycle while donating thousands more to other candidates over the last two years, according to The Times. The Republican reported a $750,000 salary and more than $1 million in dividends from the Devolder Organization, according to the Times.
Santos’ lawyer, Joseph Murray, released a statement in response to The Times article, saying the publication was “attempting to smear his good name with these defamatory allegations.”
“George Santos represents the kind of progress that the Left is so threatened by a gay, Latino, first-generation American and Republican who won a Biden district in overwhelming fashion by showing everyday voters that there is a better option than the broken promises and failed policies of the Democratic Party,” Murray continued.
Murray did not deny any of the allegations made in The Times article in his statement.
Accountable.us, described on its website as a nonpartisan organization that fact-checks corporations and “special interests that too often wield unchecked power and influence in Washington,” filed a legal complaint following the Times’ allegations.
Kyle Herrig, Accountable.us’ president, said the congressman-elect “must be held accountable for his ethical transgressions” and called on him to directly respond to allegations made against him in a letter sent to Mike Barnes, the chair of the Office of Congressional Ethics.
“According to the U.S. House of Representatives Rule XXIII Code of Official Conduct, members ‘shall behave at all times in a manner that shall reflect creditably on the House’ – a provision Mr. Santos fails to meet while questions about his background remain unanswered,” Herrig wrote in the letter.
Nassau County and New York state Democratic Chairman Jay Jacobs told The Times that Congressional Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-California) should delay seating Devolder-Santos pending a probe into the allegations.
Efforts to reach Jacobs for further comment were unavailing.
Santos recently took to Twitter in support of McCarthy becoming the new House speaker on Twitter.
“We have the opportunity of a lifetime to deliver results for the American people,” Santos tweeted earlier this month. “We MUST give the gavel to [Kevin McCarthy] to ensure we stop the disastrous policies the Dems have pushed for the last 2 years.”
Kevin Madden, a top aide for Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential campaign, told Newsday that the chances that an Ethics Committee investigation be launched into Santos are small.
“McCarthy is sitting on a razor-thin congressional majority, so his default position will likely be to say the people of New York’s 3rd Congressional District made their decision and he’ll abide by it,” Madden told Newsday.
Republicans have a 222-213 majority in Congress for the first time since 2018 following the results of this year’s midterm elections.
Santos was quoted as saying he was “at the Ellipse on Jan. 6,” the day of rioting at the U.S. Capitol, and is quoted on video saying he “wrote a nice check for a law firm” to aid the rioters who stormed the building.
Additionally, data from the Federal Election Commission revealed the Republican received nearly $30,000 in campaign donations from Andrew Intrater, the cousin of Russian Oligarch Viktor Vekslberg, an ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Vekselberg, who was born in Ukraine, made his first million from selling scrap copper before purchasing several aluminum smelters and forming the conglomerate Sual Holding in 1996, according to Forbes. Vekselberg merged Sual Holding with Russian Alumnium to create UC Rusal.
The oligarch’s $90 million, 255-foot yacht was seized by the Spanish government in April at the order of the United States. The U.S. Department of Justice said the yacht “was subject to forfeiture based on violations of U.S. bank fraud, money laundering, and sanction statutes.”